When singer-songwriter Brett Dennen was a teen he wanted to be a camp counselor who played guitar. He accomplished that and more: now 33, with wild red hair and a voice that echos Cat Stevens, Dennen is enjoying a booming music career. He is currently touring the country promoting his latest single, "The Comeback Kid," after releasing his fourth album, Lover Boy, in April. Outside sat down with Dennen shortly before he opened a sold-out show at the Lensic theater, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Outside: You had high ambitions as a teenager, huh?
Dennen: Well, I grew up in Oakdale, California, which is pretty much the gateway to Yosemite, so I spent a lot of time backpacking in the high wilderness as a kid. I started canoeing when I was 8. At 14, I was working on the kitchen crew at an outdoor camp, listening to the Indigo girls, and dreaming about being a forest ranger.
When did that change?
I went to college in Santa Cruz, California, and studied environmental science and social change. As part of my studies, I worked at a nonprofit writing music for kids.
Were you ever in a band?
Yeah, but I wasn't singing. I was just playing guitar and electric mandolin. After a while I said, 'You know what? I can write music. I can do this.' So I left.
Being on the road is definitely different that having a home base outside of Yosemite. Are you living the rock star lifestyle now?
No. If being on the road is my life, I need to be healthy. I eat lots of raw veggies and fruits. Those things support farmers and have good impact on the earth—unlike eating meat. Plus, they make me feel like a stallion. Honestly, the more you get into superfoods, the more it's like a drug. It makes you feel amazing. Kale is my heroin.